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State budget proposals call for funding regional autopsy center, realigning judicial districts affecting Richmond County

RO file photo

ROCKINGHAM — As the power players in Raleigh prepare to compromise on a state budget, those offered by the governor and two legislative chambers don’t provide nearly as much for Richmond County as the previous two.

Although not a direct benefit, one provision in the budget proffered by the N.C. House of Representatives allocates $2 million per year over the next two years to Union County to cover the costs associated with a regional autopsy center.

That funding would come from the money allocated to the Office of the State Medical Examiner.

The South Piedmont Regional Autopsy Center, as it’s referred to in the budget, would serve Anson, Cabarrus, Montgomery, Richmond, Stanly and Union counties.

Currently, local law enforcement agencies have to travel to Raleigh.

“(T)he current system in place has been excellent in terms of our current Medical Examiner rotation,” Rockingham Police Chief George Gillenwater told the RO in an email on Thursday. “They are always quick to respond and have been a tremendous help on various incidents.”

However, Gillenwater added: “If there were an office in (Union County) that was able to facilitate autopsies, that would certainly cut down on drive time and potentially help to expedite a final findings report.”

The House budget also directs the N.C. Department of Transportation to develop a schedule for implementing strategic corridor plans for several interstate routes in the state.

Those include the Interstate-74 corridor from Richmond County to the South Carolina state line in Brunswick County, and the proposed future Interstate/U.S. 74 corridor from Wingate to Rockingham.

The only other mention of Richmond County in the House version, as well as all mentions in the Senate budget relate to the court system.

Click here to read more about the House budget from the Carolina Journal.

The Senate version changes the judicial district numeration from 16A to 21, but the counties contained within — Richmond, Anson and Scotland — would remain the same.

It is an effort, according to the text, to numerically realign the state’s superior and district court and public defender districts with the prosecutorial districts.

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With the changing of the district number, the text for rules regarding candidates for judgeship will be altered to reflect the new district.

On the district court level, there will be one judge each elected from Anson and Scotland counties and two from Richmond; and two resident judges on the superior court level.

The House budget keeps the number of assistant district attorneys at 11. The complement was raised from nine in the 2021 budget.

Click here to read more about the Senate budget from the Carolina Journal.

The only mention of the county in Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget proposal is an allocation of more than $16 million over the next two years for the juvenile detention centers in both Richmond and Rockingham counties.

The previous budget allocated $10.7 million for renovations at the Richmond Regional Juvenile Detention Center just outside Rockingham, which was closed in 2013. Both centers are slated to open this year, according to the governor’s budget.

The budget passed in late 2021 provided more than $30 million in funding to the county and the 2022 budget provided more than $7.5 million.

Click here to read about the 2021 budget.

Click here to read bout the 2022 budget.